He goes to conclude that Wall may end up being better than both. I for one would rather have Rose.
For those w/o insider:
We're in an unusual era in the NBA. Make a list of the league's top five players and chances are there won't be a point guard in the bunch. But a similar exercise to name the league's most exciting young players will yield almost nothing but point guards.
Actually, the point guard position has three generations competing for supremacy right now. The Steve Nash-Chauncey Billups-Jason Kidd generation is still holding on, and considering they each made the All-Star team last year and each won at least 54 games, it's not time to conduct their funeral dirge just yet.
Then there's the mid-to-late 20-something, in-their-prime generation, consisting of Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Rajon Rondo and Tony Parker. They still hold the conch in the point guard debate, with Williams generally being considered the best when Paul has been injured and Paul the best when he's been healthy. Rondo's stellar early season play has pushed his name into the debate, too.
Yet they might all be taking a backseat soon, because three young guns -- Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook and John Wall -- are moving rapidly up the ranks. And what's unusual about this group is that they play the position much differently than the previous generations. Their older peers are mostly traditional, pick-and-roll point guards who succeed with quickness, guile and court vision.
These guys? Raw, unadulterated power. With awesome combinations of size and strength, they're among the best finishers in basketball despite playing the point. They're not great shooters and it doesn't matter. They don't have great court vision (though Wall has shown a lot of potential as a distributor; more on that below). That doesn't matter, either. In today's NBA, where the ability to beat opponents off the dribble is king and perimeter defenders can't use their hands, burst and power are at a premium.
How much of a premium? Consider that Rose and Wall were the No. 1 picks in their respective drafts after just a year of college (after a generation in which point guards were almost never considered to be top-pick material), while Westbrook went fourth despite not even playing point guard as a collegian.
And the irony is that they end up doing a lot of damage with midrange jump shots. Opponents are so fearful of their blinding quickness off the dribble that they back up, go under screens and concede shots they'd never permit to almost any other opponent.
[+] EnlargeRafael Suanes/US Presswire
John Wall is already rising on point-guard lists around the league.
So while Rose, Westbrook and Wall live on the dynamic finishes at the rim, in between highlights they build up their numbers by hitting easy midrange jump shots, often shooting little more than a free throw with a defender still several feet off of them. You don't have to be a great shooter to nail a high percentage of those shots.
Similarly, the respect opponents have to show for their jets makes it easier for them to set up teammates, too. You seldom see Nash-like magic from these three, but they're in the paint so often that they almost can't help but set up teammates for easy shots. Additionally, their perimeter passes are rarely obstructed by opposing hands because opponents play so far off them; as our David Thorpe noted when discussing Rondo, the respect opponents show for their driving ability makes the other parts of their job vastly easier.
For now, Rose is the most advanced of the three. The third-year guard was an All-Star in 2010 and has put up some phenomenal numbers in his first four games this season. Like his cohorts, he's definitely more of a scorer than a passer -- yes, he's averaging 10 assists a game, but he's also averaging 21.5 field goal attempts and put up 31 shots in 31 minutes in Chicago's season opener.
He's also not a deep shooter (with a 27.8 percent mark on 3s this year and 24.7 percent for his career) or a particularly accurate foul shooter (he owns a modest 77.5 percent career mark from the free throw line).
But he is a brilliant finisher at the rim and has augmented his ability to get into the paint with a very good floater. The next step is to use his athleticism and power to draw more fouls -- despite his physical gifts, Rose averaged only 4.3 free throw attempts per game last season. He's also just begun to tap the massive potential he has to be a defensive force with his physical skills.
In terms of power, Westbrook might be the most dominant of the bunch. Like Rose he's in his third year, and he's an even more awesome force physically -- he has the most raw power of the bunch, exploding to the hoop going right and using his physique to take contact and finish at the rim. Russell's muscular game also shows up in his unusual ability to offensive rebound, a rarity at the point. Westbrook pulled down nearly two offensive boards a game in his first two pro seasons, and last night had a pair of putbacks to keep the Thunder in the game.
As with the other two, his rough edges are still rounding into form. Westbrook still can't make 3s but he's shooting 93.6 percent from the line this season. As a point guard he's had the longest learning curve of the three and his instincts are strongest as a scorer, but either way he's a handful for opposing guards. In fact, he's second among all point guards in PER so far in the young season.
Westbrook's brute strength also makes him a major pest at the defensive end, where he can easily step up to take shooting guards and has the quickness to keep most opposing point guards in check. The only item on his checklist at that end is to contain some of his youthful exuberance -- he needs to learn to gamble and leave his feet less often.
Rose and Westbrook, however, may have to take a backseat to the new prototype, Wall. He combines the power and size of the other two with an extra gear in his motor. Wall is so fast that Hawks coach Larry Drew had to go back two decades to find a comparison (former Utah speedster Rickey Green) before conceding that Wall still might be faster, and is much bigger, too.
In three pro games, Wall has used those jets to average 23.7 points and 10.2 assists. He's the most advanced passer of the three, and the fastest, and he might be the best shooter. He hit a pair of 3-pointers in his second pro game and already appears vastly more proficient in the midrange game than Rose or Westbrook looked as rookies.
This is, mind you, after just one year of college ball. Like the others he still has rough patches to work on -- those 14 turnovers in three games come to mind -- and right now he overwhelms opponents with his physical prowess more than with his skill level. But to date, he seems the best combination of the wily nature of his predecessors and the raw power of the new generation.
But with three such players entering the league in the past three years, and all making a huge impact almost immediately, one thing is for certain: Scouts will be looking high and low for the next one. With rules favoring point guards with the quickness to get a step to the rim and the size and explosiveness to finish, the power point guard phenomenon looks like it's here to stay.